The Independent: Geneva Conventions states meet on Israel

Date: 12/6/2001 3:14:03 AM Pacific Standard Time

Geneva Conventions states meet on Israel
By Jonathan Fowler, AP Writer
05 December 2001
Overriding US protests, Switzerland opened an international conference today
to examine whether Israel is violating the Geneva Conventions on warfare by
its occupation of Palestinian territory.

The meeting of nations that have signed the 1949 treaties on the conduct of
war is looking at the situation in the Middle East and is expected to
conclude that Israel is breaching the accords.

It is expected also to call on Israel to respect the agreement on the
treatment of civilians in occupied territory and allow independent observers
to monitor the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The United States is boycotting the meeting, claiming it is
"counterproductive." Israel also has refused to attend.

"We believe that convening the conference after the massacre of almost 30
Israelis over the weekend renders it even more meaningless that it would be
in any case," said Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Yaakov Levy.

Levy approached Switzerland – the depository of the Geneva Conventions – and
asked for the meeting to be canceled or postponed, but the request was

The 189 signatories of the conventions last met in July 1999, also to
discuss the Middle East, but suspended their session after 17 minutes,
citing positive developments in the region.

Arab states and many other signatories have been calling for a new meeting
since the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in late
September 2000.

In the 14 months of fighting since, more than 780 people on the Palestinian
side have died and more than 230 on the Israeli side.

Switzerland has condemned as a breach of the conventions Israel's policy of
building Jewish settlements on land conquered in the 1967 Mideast war. About
200,000 Israelis live in the settlements.

Swiss officials have also criticized Israeli executions without trial of
Palestinian militants suspected of targeting Israel, and a blockade of
Palestinian–inhabited areas.

Israel defends its policy, maintaining that the West Bank and Gaza are
disputed territory, not occupied land, and therefore the conventions do not

Human rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday cited "grave breaches"
of the conventions by Israel. But, it said, Palestinian militants also were
breaking the convention by targeting civilians.

All signatories – including Israel – are pledged to respect civilians'
rights and to make sure others do likewise.

Under the conventions states are supposed to prosecute their own soldiers if
they commit war crimes. They can also turn to other organizations to set up
special courts, like the UN war crimes tribunals for former Yugoslavia or

But there are no legal measures to ensure compliance, and no sanctions
specified if signatories do not respect the agreements.

Also from the Middle East section.
Britain and 100 other states warn Sharon on rules of war
Further attacks provide Sharon with reasons for his 'war on terror'
Failure of suicide bid sparks new ultimatums for Arafat
Five hurt in central Jerusalem suicide bomb
Two Palestinians killed in air strike

Rima Al-Alamy
United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
POB 6016, AICC
Arusha, Tanzania
Tel: 1-212-963-2850 ext. 5142
Fax: 1 212-963-2850 ext 5190
  or 1-212-963-2848
Cellphone: +255-742-402881

Britain and 100 other states warn Sharon on rules of war
By Stephen Castle in Brussels
06 December 2001
Britain joined more than 100 countries in demanding that Israel refrain
immediately from committing "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions, such
as the deliberate killing of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

The resolution, which also called on Palestinians to show restraint, was
backed by British diplomats who attended an international gathering in
Geneva that was boycotted by America and Israel. But Jack Straw, the Foreign
Secretary, struck a markedly different tone in London yesterday with a
strong expression of sympathy for Israel over recent suicide bombings.

He said: "The Israelis' grief at these outrages is our grief. Israel's
people have an absolute right to live in peace and security. It is now
incumbent on the Palestinian Authority to arrest the people they know are
committing these outrages in Hamas, Hizbollah and Islamic Jihad, and not
just to arrest them but to ensure they are effectively detained."

In Geneva, the one-day meeting of signatory states to the Fourth Geneva
Convention reaffirmed that the international pact on protecting civilians
under military occupation applied to territory seized by Israel in the West
Bank and the Gaza Strip. Switzerland refused Israel's appeal to suspend the
session because of last weekend's suicide bombings.

Rima Al-Alamy
United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
POB 6016, AICC
Arusha, Tanzania
Tel: 1-212-963-2850 ext. 5142
Fax: 1 212-963-2850 ext 5190
  or 1-212-963-2848
Cellphone: +255-742-402881

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